Anxiety is a condition that is suffered by many people – and it is a condition that many people also seek help with; there are several ways to deal with anxiety, one of which is the use of synthetic prescription drugs such as valium (diazepam). However, there is a natural alternative to such drugs, including the use of herbs such as valerian. Learn why valerian and valium are not the same, even though they are commonly mistaken for each other.
A Description of Valium
Valium is not derived from nature; it is synthetically made in a laboratory by scientists. Valium belongs to a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines; benzodiazepines are anti-depressant drugs that are commonly prescribed to help you manage anxiety and associated symptoms, such as insomnia (source). However, benzodiazepines are often difficult to withdraw from and require a prolonged period of withdrawal to avoid a repeat of symptoms.
Plant Profile of Valerian
Valerian (Valeriana fauriei) is a herb that belongs to the Valerianaceae plant family; it is a perennial plant that has highly aromatic roots. There are various species of valerian but common or garden valerian is of the most value medicinally. Valerian likes to grow in woody areas, or near water, and in partial sun/shade; it is commonly found in Europe and Western Asia (source: The Aromatherapy Garden, Julia Lawless). The roots of Valerian are used medicinally either as a herb or as an essential oil in aromatherapy.
Medicinal Use of Valerian
Valerian is not new to the medicinal world; it has been around since the second century A.D. It was extremely popular as a medicinal aid in Medieval times (source). Lawless writes that it was used during the First World War to treat shell-shock victims. In the West, valerian has been used for insomnia, migraine, rheumatism and as an analgesic; in the East, the Chinese used valerian for backache, menstrual problems and colds (source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Julia Lawless).
How Valium and Valerian Work
The exact way in which both valerian and valium work is not recorded but the reason that many confuse the two as one and the same (apart from the similarity in names) is that both valerian and valium affect the body in similar ways. Valerian is believed to increase the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which helps to regulate brain cells and reduce anxiety. Valium works in much the same way, although research shows that valerian does not have such a strong effect as valium (source).
Ways to Take Valerian
You can administer valerian in a number of ways; these include:
- as an essential oil in aromatherapy; do not use undiluted
- as a tea
- as a herbal extract
- as a tincture.
Consult a qualified aromatherapist, herbal practitioner or medical practitioner respectively for further advice before taking valerian in any of these ways, as your personal circumstances may dictate the suitability of the use of valerian for you.
Cautions for Using Valerian
Valerian is “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) by the United States Food and Drug Administration. However, it is advisable to use valerian in moderation; do not combine it with any other prescribed medication. Do not take valerian if you are pregnant, nursing, whilst operating heavy machinery or driving; reduce your use of valerian gradually to avoid any unwanted side effects (although there is no recorded evidence of valerian dependency or adverse withdrawal symptoms).
Valium or Valerian?
Valerian is a natural alternative to valium in helping to deal with anxiety-related problems. Valerian and valium are not the same, although they do affect the body in nearly the same way. Valerian may be a natural choice for you in treating anxiety.
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